Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Connecting with Other Educators

Teaching can be a lonely profession. That sounds odd, doesn't it? We spend all day with other people! But there is often an isolation that can form unless we are deliberate about making connections with other educators.

In my opinion, connecting with others is where the most growth, the most professional development occurs.

So how do you connect with other educators?

Check out this video from my Twitterfriend and fellow graduate student, Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler). She's as much a Twitter geek as I am (and probably more so, if I dare to characterize her that way...)

She makes great points about Twitter for educators! Most of the time, all the teachers in a school have the same professional development opportunities. So how do you encounter fresh, new ideas? Twitter has been a great resource for me that way--it's how I connected with Alice before we ever had a class together!

I'm a proponent of education chats on Twitter as a way of building and cultivating your own professional learning network (PLN.) Chats vary in intensity; most meet at a specific date and time so you can regularly plan it in your schedule. I like the live chats best because I like the give and take, asking questions, sharing ideas and resources, and general positivity that comes from them. For example, I regularly participate in #iaedchat (Iowa Education chat), which has many--though not exclusively--educators in Iowa chiming in. We have a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but the common thread for us all is that we are educators interested in connecting and encouraging each other and learning alongside each other.

On the other hand, Twitterchats might also foster some groupthink, because they often have a rather specific focus. I have participated in #sbgchat (standards-based grading chat) several times. I love this one, because I appreciate much of the thinking and underlying philosophy behind standards-based grading. But because of the specific focus for this group, we all pretty much agree on most points already. Not that you can't still learn in a like-minded group; I certainly have my thinking sharpened, and I've been connected with great people who can provide me with answers and resources when I have questions--they are now part of my PLN, because we connected in the chat.

If you are an educator, and you aren't yet on Twitter, I encourage you (along with Alice) to start an account (it's free, and easy) and check out some chats of interest. Follow educators you know, and see who they are following and with whom they are connecting. Start growing your PLN!

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